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How Much From Special Interests?

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The Los Angeles Times
Feb 06, 2004 - 01:00 AM

by Steve Lopez

Brother, Can You Spare $500,000?

I'm not asking any of you to break the bank, but I have to get to New York for an Arnold Schwarzenegger fundraising dinner Feb. 24, and I can't afford a seat at the table.

Actually, maybe you will have to break the bank. Schwarzenegger is asking high rollers to help fund his bond measure campaign, and he wants them to write a check in the amount of ... wait a minute.

You have to sit down for this.

Are you ready?

He's asking for as much as $500,000.

HALF A MILLION DOLLARS!

I've never heard of a $500,000 political donation, and I have to see it in person. It's an astronomical sum, obviously, but that's only half the fun. It's being requested by the very guy who promised he would strap explosives to politics as usual and take a sledgehammer to special-interest fundraising.

Yeah, Gray Davis made treks to New York, hat in hand. He'd have flown to the moon if he thought there was a banquet hall up there. But the whole point of electing Arnold Schwarzenegger was to terminate that kind of pathetic grubbing, not to mention the pandering to donors.

Now Arnold turns out to be Davis on steroids, times a thousand, and I think it's in the public interest for me to be a fly on the wall when Big Boy breaks bread in New York.

Let me make it easy on you, folks. All I need is for 500,000 readers to send me $1 each. If that's too much to ask, my fallback is to beg 50,000 readers for $1 apiece, because Schwarzenegger apparently will let you in the door for a suggested minimum pop of $50,000.

I think I could raise the 50 grand, but I don't want to end up shoved into a corner, talking to some sap who hasn't gotten over the Dodgers bolting Brooklyn. Get me the $500,000, which makes me a "California Recovery Team Chair," and I'll be able to whisper in Arnold's ear like all the Big Apple's high rollers.

As you might be aware, polls say a majority of Californians are turning thumbs down to Schwarzenegger's $15-billion bond proposal, which will cost us billions more in interest. But he figures if he can raise $9 million for an ad campaign, we'll march to the polls like sheep and bail him out.

My guess is, he's right. A lot of people have been star-struck from Day 1, and gladly overlook Schwarzenegger's little inconsistencies, like his promising to end the days of borrowing our way out of debt.

If I were to bang out a column every time he was careless with the truth, I'd have to write every day and sleep on a cot in the office.

Take his current roadshow, in which the governor claims he inherited the budget gap. He inherited most of it, but he dug the hole even deeper when he rescinded a car-tax increase.

During his campaign, he said he was going to square the books by ferreting out billions in waste, fraud and abuse, and then he hired finance chief Donna Arduin to do his digging. But like Punxsutawney Phil, all she brought up from the hole was her own shadow.

Now Schwarzenegger is taking his act to Broadway, and Jamie Court, of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, is coming out of his shoes.

First of all, Court screams, the bond and money barons are in New York, and they're all smiling like thieves as they count the loot they'll make on California's Prop. 57. (I'm asking you to please send me $1 today, before those Wall Street jackals buy every seat at the fundraiser.)

And secondly, Court snaps, the event is being hosted at the Trump Tower home of Robert Wood Johnson IV, of the Johnson & Johnson family.

That company and other pharmaceuticals are lobbying against bulk purchasing of drugs, Court says, a practice that would save taxpayers money but cost the drug companies.

And Schwarzenegger declared this consumer protection week in California, snarls Court, who takes the irony one step further.

Pharmaceutical companies owe California $1.3 billion in rebates on drug purchases for Medi-Cal patients going back 10 years, says a new federal audit cited by the Orange County Register.

You'd think a governor who kept promising to audit everything in sight would have found such an obvious screw-up. But this kind of lapse is to be expected when you spend so much time at political fundraisers.

Court says if the governor cracked down on his buddies in the drug industry, he'd have that $1.3 billion in hand and could nix proposed healthcare funding cuts of more than $900 million.

Sure, but don't expect me to scold Arnold for every glib contradiction. As long as he sticks with the Hollywood hustle, I've got more in the bank than Donald Trump.

A judge says he illegally funded his campaign, and Schwarzenegger calls the ruling fantastic.

He blows a kiss to cities, then backhands them.

He plans to have himself investigated, then drops the case.

I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together

I am the egg man

I am the Walrus

Goo goo g' joob
-------
Steve Lopez writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday and can be reached at
mailto:steve.lopez@latimes.com. Reach previous columns at www.latimes.com/lopez





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